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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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FAME.—This term has had three meanings,—rumour, reputation, and posthumous renown. The last is modern; the Elizabethan usage lies between, or may include, the other two. Bacon, who left a Fragment on the subject, and who loved to quote the mythological idea of Fame as the daughter of the angry Earth and the sister of the warring Giants, understood by the term disturbing Rumour—a thing dangerous to governments. Milton, who in an early poem (Lycidas, 70 ff.) described ‘the last infirmity of noble minds,’ in a late poem analyzed the temptation to seek fame or glory, and poured scorn on human judgments (Par. Reg. iii. 21–151). In the Gospels the meaning is simpler. The term describes the spreading talk of the admiring multitudes. It is a thing unsought, but unrestrainable, and in no small degree disquieting to the authorities.

We are told that early in the ministry of Jesus a fame of Him went through Galilee and the surrounding country, including Syria (Matthew 4:24, Luke 4:14). Special occasions were the restoration of a demoniac (Mark 1:8, Luke 4:37) and the cleansing of a leper (Luke 5:15, cf. Mark 1:45). The First Gospel uses the term also in connexion with the restoring of Jairus’ daughter and the giving of sight to two blind men (Matthew 9:26; Matthew 9:31). And, finally, this Gospel tells us that the fame of Jesus affected Herod (Matthew 14:1 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘report,’ cf. Mark 6:14, Luke 9:7).

An examination of the Greek text shows that in no two parallel passages is the same term used. The term of the first two Gospels (except in Matthew 9:26) is ἀκοή (lit. ‘hearing’; Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘report’), used also for ‘rumours’ in the eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7). St. Luke, however, eschews this word, and in his three passages uses three others: φήμη (lit. ‘speech’; Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘fame,’ Luke 4:14, so Matthew 9); ἦχος (lit. ‘sound’; Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘report,’ Luke 4:37); and λόγος (lit. ‘discourse’; Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘report,’ Luke 5:15). And elsewhere each Evangelist uses periphrasis. Thus we may conclude that the idea expressed by these terms was of an indefinite character. It included, in varying degrees, such elements as curiosity, attraction, wonder, faith, worship.

These passages, taken along with others that more directly express admiration or astonishment (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:31), or that relate the concourse and following of multitudes (Mark 3:7-9; Mark 6:34; Mark 6:55; Mark 10:46), show that during His whole public ministry the acts of Jesus arrested the gaze of men. Not only in Galilee, but in all the provinces of Palestine, and in cities of Syria, men talked and speculated regarding a new Figure that was in their midst. A few who cherished sacred tradition believed that the Messiah had come (John 1:41; John 1:49; John 7:40, Matthew 16:4; Matthew 21:9). Others less instructed talked wildly as if Elijah had descended, or the Baptist had risen (Mark 6:14-15, Matthew 16:13-14), or some prophet of local tradition or expectation had appeared (John 7:40, Matthew 21:11). Doubtless the multitudes that hung around Him were very mixed crowds. Vanity and selfishness mingled with their motives. They loved display. They desired a succession of palpable benefits. Some had political aims or ambitions. The majority failed to appreciate the renunciation and pure spirituality of the Teacher. And few were able to sustain the devotion of their higher moments. To Jesus it was often a relief to find a place of solitude for meditation and prayer. Yet He acknowledged the true instinct of the untutored worshipper (Matthew 21:16). And it is to the honour of human nature to remember that the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37), and that not the nation at large, but the constituted authorities and their tools—a suspicious officialism, a proud and jealous priesthood—rejected the true Leader and Lord of men, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls. See, further, artt. Ambition and Glory.

R. Scott.



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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fame'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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